Hisae Hagiwara Chew, 1933–2019
A Celebration of Life

About Hisae

Hisae Hagiwara Chew was born in Tokyo, on November 10th, 1933, in the 8th year of the Showa Emperor. She died as a result of aspiration pneumonia caused by end-stage vascular dementia at Vermont Square Long Term Care Home in Toronto, on the morning of December 24th, 2019.

She lost her birth father in Manchuria, raised four younger sisters through the firebombing of Tokyo, excelled in athletics and calligraphy in school, learned Spanish to move to South America, taught Japanese for the U.S. State Department, got married, moved to the United States, had two sons, moved to Toronto, taught Japanese to her sons, taught Japanese to the Ontario pavilion staff at Expo ’70, travelled around the world, bought a house, planted a garden, revamped and taught the Japanese programme at York University, survived stomach cancer, bought a second house in the Yucatan, planted a second garden, learned to snorkel and communicate with sea turtles and squid, taught decades of visitors how to snorkel and love the sea and the fish, learned reiki, taught reiki, developed dementia, was found by her stepbrothers, was well cared for by doctors, nurses, and PSWs, said her goodbyes, and passed away peacefully in her own bed. She donated her body to the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto, and her ashes will eventually be interred in Toronto and scattered in the Yucatan.

She is survived by her husband, Prof. John J. “Jack” Chew, Jr., her sons John (Kristen) and Edward (Alice), sisters Nobuko, Tomoko, Kimiko and Toshiko, brothers Mikio and Yoshiteru, and grandchildren Ian, Jay, Jamie and Liam.

About the Event

Hisae was a deeply spiritual person, and espoused the Shinto values of respect for ancestors and love of nature, but she had no time for religion or ceremony. Those of us who are left behind have mourned her dementia long enough that we would like to plan this event in a spirit of celebration, while recognizing the grief that we will always carry with us.

We invite you therefore to join us for a few hours to share music, food, and stories about Hisae, and to meet others whose lives she touched.

Where Crystal Hall, Estonian House, 958 Broadview Avenue, Toronto

When:  Sunday, January 26th, from 1:00–4:00 P.M.

R.S.V.P. John Chew at poslfit@gmail.com

Here is a slightly more detailed estimate of our plans for the afternoon.

12:00  Setup

1:00  Unscheduled

2:00  Ted Chew and family to play some of Hisae’s favourite songs

3:00  Eulogies etc. as listed in programme

3:30  Unscheduled

4:00  Teardown


  1. Where exactly is the event? In the Crystal Hall, half a storey up from ground level, in the middle of the building.
  2. Is there parking? Yes, 60 spaces, on a first-come basis, accessible through the driveway on the south side of the building.
  3. Is there wheelchair access? Yes, through the entrance at the north driveway, which does not lead to the parking lot.
  4. Are you Estonian? Some of our best friends are, but no. They just have a nice function space that is within walking distance of John’s house and Jack’s house.
  5. How early can I come to set something up? We have the room booked from noon to 5:00, but ask that guests attend between 1:00 and 4:00.
  6. Will there be food and drink? Yes, catered finger foods and non-alcoholic beverages. A few guests have asked if they can bring contributions: it is not at all necessary, but if you would like to, please let us know in advance so that we can make sure there is table space. (And no alcohol please, as the venue is not licensed for it.)
  7. Will there be speeches? Yes, a few, starting at around 3:00, as listed in the programme. Let us know if you want to make one.
  8. Is there a dress code? Not as such: whatever you would wear to a party is fine.
  9. Will the event be live-streamed? Parts of it, almost certainly.
  10. Can I make a charitable donation in Hisae’s memory? Thank you for offering. Please consider donating to the Coral Reef Alliance through this link./span>
  11. Will there be Scrabble or other board games being played? Not officially, no.
  12. Is the venue easy to get to by public transit? It depends — there is a scheduled subway maintenance closure on Line 1 that could affect guests coming from the north.



For more information, please feel free to contact John Chew electronically on Facebook or Google Hangouts, or by email at poslfit@gmail.com.